10 Tips for Beginner Weightlifters
Weightlifting can be a little intimidating at first if you don't know where to start, but understanding the basics can help you feel more confident. We asked pro trainer Nicole Roggow what advice she would give to someone new to the sport. Check out her list of the top ten things every beginner should do.
1. Find a coach.
Weightlifting is a high skill sport. Without a coach (either in person, or remote), it will be very difficult to refine skills and make progress. Having a coach to give you feedback and make technique adjustments is huge! You don’t want to waste your time from the beginning practicing poor technique. There are a ton of coaches out there, find one that meshes well with you.
2. Follow a program.
Due to the stress on the body, the mind, and the nervous system – it is very important to be on a thought out program that is developed in 6-8 week blocks. The program should be repetitive week to week in order to build specific strength and skill. Weightlifting is not a sport that develops based on random training sessions, so being systematic in following a program is key.
3. Wear weightlifting shoes.
I often see new lifters trying to train in regular tennis shoes. They almost always tell me “these feel fine”, yet they have little to no experience with lifters. Weightlifting shoes are specifically developed for the sport in order to help you stay grounded to the floor and have a solid, rigid base to push off of through your lifts. Use the shoes designed for the sport! “You don’t NEED cleats to play football… but it helps!”
4. Use the hookgrip.
The Hookgrip = “Thumb around the bar, fingers around your thumb” I often refer to it as “wrong punch”. If you have never held the bar this way, it will take some getting use to. However, from a technique standpoint, it is a non-negotiable from the very beginning. Using the hookgrip will keep your arms in correct position throughout the lift and will allow you to keep a firm grip on heavy weight.
5. Squat often.
Strong legs will make everything better! If you are following a quality weightlifting program this will already be taken care of. But take your squats very seriously! You will find that strong legs makes weightlifting a lot easier (and more fun) to improve on. Squats should be incorporated into your program 2-3 sessions a week and you should be mindful to focus on proper positioning throughout.
6. Limit misses.
As a beginner, your skills and technique will take time to develop. Missing lifts is going to be part of the sport, but limit them in training. We want to build confidence and the expectation of made lifts. Staying light and limiting misses is a great way to hammer in technique and develop good habits from the beginning.
7. Compete often.
When you first start training weightlifting, you may think competing is so far down the line. I often hear “I’m not ready” from beginners. However, I always encourage my new lifters to compete and compete often when they first start. I believe it gives an athlete the true feel for the sport and keeps you inspired and motivated to train knowing you will get to show off your improvements in competition. Competing often will also help to know out the “nervousness” of the idea of being on the competition floor. The more you put yourself out there, the more comfortable you will get with it!
8. Don’t cut weight.
As a beginner in the sport, your main concern should be improving your strength and technique. Compete where your weight naturally falls and do not worry about trying to cut while being so new in the sport. Cutting weight is something that should happen down the line when you are trying to qualify for national meets or break records.
9. Improve your overhead position.
Beginner weightlifters often have very little background with overhead strength. Not many sports require a solid and strong overhead position. Range of motion, and strength through that range is typically an issue for beginners. Hammer that early on! With a solid overhead position, developing the lifts is going to be much easier and you can spend more time worrying about the technique of your lifts.
10. Use kilograms.
Because it is an international sport, weightlifting uses kilograms as a measure of weight. Although we do not use kilograms as the primary unit of measurement here in America, if you are starting to train weightlifting – get use to loading your bar, and discussing your weight in kilos! This is beneficial for a few reasons - 1) in the beginning, you may not know what you are lifting in pounds, therefore taking some mental blocks away 2) you can make smaller jumps (in pounds you can typically only increase a bar by 5 or 10#) by increasing your bar 1-2 kilos at a time and 3) kilograms will always be used in competition… so you want to be familiar with it! I tell my lifters to stop using calculators and stop worry about converting to pounds. Start to speak and lift in only kilos, and eventually it will be second nature!